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History Paper - Katy Roeser Assimilate or Acculturate...

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Katy Roeser Assimilate or Acculturate President Jackson’s Indian Removal Act of 1830 forced the Cherokees, as well as many other tribes, to surrender their land to the United States Government and move into Indian Country, or what is present day Oklahoma. President Jackson’s rationale for enforcing the Indian Removal Act was that the Native Americans were not worthy of assimilating to white people. He agreed that they were part of the United States, but he saw them as “neither [having] the intelligence, the industry, the moral habits, nor the desire of improvement” 1 to be able to fully assimilate with the superior white race. He also believed that their culture would become extinct if they assimilated, so he ordered the Cherokee people to move out of their land and into the West where they could live in isolation and out of the way. Problems arose here though, because most of the Cherokees were already assimilated with whites- they were married to whites, were Christian, and were well educated. In fact, Chief John Ross and Elias Boudinot were both highly educated. Chief John Ross was set adamantly in keeping his people in the Cherokee homeland. Elias Boudinot believed that the Cherokees should sign a treaty with the United States, thus guaranteeing the proper treatment of their people. John Ross believed that even if the Cherokees did sign a treaty with the United States, it would not stop them from doing something like this in the long run. Thus, he believed that the Cherokees should stand up for their rights against the United States government until they were 1 1 James L. Roark, Michael P. Johnson, Patricia C. Cohen, Sarah Stage, Alan Lawson, Susan M. Hartman, The American Promise: A History of the United States , (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009), 371 1
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recognized and treated equally. Although this division between Ross and Boudinot split up the Cherokee nation in 1830, Ross’ stance to hold true to Cherokee rights and beliefs, and to fight and stand up against the unfair treatment by the United States government, shows his loyalty to the Cherokee nation as he was only trying to do what was best for his people. John Ross argued that even if the Cherokee Nation was to sign a treaty with the United States over the Indian Removal Act, nothing held the United States to honoring such treaty. Prime example of this was the case of Worcester v. Georgia in 1832. In 1831, Georgia declared that the Cherokee people would be held to state laws and thus the United States would claim their land. The Cherokees, specifically John Ross, appealed to the Supreme Court, and after several more cases, they finally won their battle. In 1832 the Supreme Court ruled that they would recognize the Cherokee people as “a distinct community, occupying its own territory, in which the laws of Georgia can have no force.” 2
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